After my friend and I took our daughters to the AMTC auditions, we wondered, “Is AMTC a Scam?”
My friend and I suspected that everyone at the auditions got callbacks, since both of our daughters and another girl we knew got callbacks.
Also, we were surprised at the high prices to attend the convention. So we were skeptical and began investigating to determine if AMTC could be a scam. (See more on this topic in “Should Your Child Attend Talent Contests?” and “What is AMTC?“)
What is a scam, really?
The definition of scam, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is: a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation.
It is hard to decide exactly when something is or is not a scam. If you are misled and promised certain things that are not provided, then it is a scam. Also, if you are charged much more for something than what it is really worth, it is a scam. But how do you define how much something is worth? That is a difficult thing to do.
Do Industry Professionals Actually Attend AMTC?
My friend actually called up some of the talent agents, talent managers, and casting directors on the list of AMTC attendees and asked them if they regularly attended AMTC. They all confirmed that they did indeed attend. She asked them other questions and was satisfied with their answers.
Does Everyone Get a Callback?
Still, we wondered if every person who auditioned got a callback. I asked the talent scouts and was told that not everyone was selected to attend the convention. I was never absolutely able to verify this, but at least one person told me they knew someone who was not called back.
I was also told of one person who was not “selected” to attend but asked if they could attend anyway. They were allowed to attend. Was it wrong for AMTC to allow them to attend if they really wanted to attend?
Our Decision About AMTC
After much soul-searching and many discussions with friends and family, my husband and I did sign our 5-year-old daughter up to participate in AMTC. My friend planned for her daughter to attend but changed her mind since she thought her daughter was not ready for an event like this.
There were two sets of classes (one for adults and one for kids and teens) being held at to prepare the participants for the competitions. My daughter and I attended the weekly classes from October to January to help prepare her (and me) for the convention being held in January of 2003 in Charleston, SC (AMTC is usually held in Orlando, Florida.) of Charleston
We worked hard on preparing her for the competitions, practicing frequently at home. We watched videos from previous contests. We got costumes and other clothing ready and planned hairstyles. I also read all the materials I could find and asked questions to help ensure that we’d be prepared. (See “How Do You Prepare for Talent Contests Such as AMTC?” for more on how to prepare if you do decide to attend.)
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays passed, and the next thing I knew, it was time for the convention.
Staying in the Convention Hotel
We planned to drive over for the various events since we lived only 30 minutes to an hour away. But as the time grew closer, we decided to stay in the convention hotel. We shared with another girl and her mother, so the price was not bad.
We both enjoyed the various events going on in the hotel. I don’t think we would have had the same experience if we had not stayed on site at the hotel–my daughter enjoyed swimming with the other contestants, eating with the other contestants, and hanging out with them in the evenings. It was very convenient to be able to go back to our room to change clothes, freshen up, rest, or just to escape for a few minutes.
The truth is, my daughter had the time of her life at AMTC, and absolutely loved every minute of it. I found the seminars taught by the industry professionals to be quite informative.
And for our family, this was a life-changing event. My daughter did well, and the end result was that we ended up here in L.A. (And soon a detailed account of our experiences will be available for your reading pleasure.)
But I know of others who were very disappointed and felt cheated and unhappy when the convention was over.
So what is the answer to the question “Is AMTC a SCAM?”
AMTC is not a scam in terms of making false promises.
What does AMTC promise?
What AMTC promises is that you will compete in front of numerous industry judges from around the world — talent agents, talent managers, casting directors, and other entertainment industry professionals. And on that part they do deliver.
If you compete and do well, the results from the convention can be life-changing. These things are all absolutely true.
AMTC Does Not Promise:
- To make you a star if you attend.
- That you will get a talent agent if you attend.
- That you will get a talent manager if you attend.
- That you will get a job if you attend.
- That you will be “discovered” if you attend.
And it is important for you to seriously consider the fact that none of the above things are promised to you if you attend.
While the things above can actually happen as a result of AMTC, the chances of them happening is somewhat slim. And it is important that you understand that.
Should the industry judges be paid for participating in AMTC or other conventions?
Many people are critical of the fact that the industry judges are paid and at least part of their expenses are covered by the convention.
It would be nice to think that the industry professionals just go to AMTC or other events at their own expense to find new talent. But for the most part, they don’t.
The way I view it, though, is that all these people are trying to make a living in the entertainment industry. I don’t have a problem with them receiving some compensation for the time that they spend “working” at the convention.
Besides working as judges for the competitions, they also present informative seminars to the contestants and their parents and provide useful feedback to those trying to break into show business.
Many of these same people teach classes or workshops or give seminars in L.A., New York, or wherever it is they live, and often get money for those as well. While they might occasionally do a seminar or class for free, that is pretty rare. And some of them travel around presenting workshops and seminars, and people pay to attend most of those as well.
Let’s face it, people do most of what they do in life in order to get paid. Sure, there are charities that people work for out of the goodness of their hearts, and that is admirable. But people who work in the entertainment industry as a career have to make money at it just as people who work in any other industry do.
Are they honest in their selection process?
Another thing that many people question about AMTC and other similar talent contests is whether the people who run the events and solicit for the events are honest in their selection process. Do they select people to participate who have absolutely no chance of ever being noticed or selected for anything in the entertainment industry? It is suggested that they encourage people to pay a lot of money to attend when they know in their hearts that those people have almost no chance of being noticed during the convention. And that is really the questionable part of it.
Is it okay that the founders make money from running AMTC?
The people running the events make money from the events, but I personally don’t see that as being a scam. They really do deliver what they promise with AMTC. It is a very well-run, family-friendly and safe event.
And you know how much it will cost up front as that information is furnished to you. Holding the AMTC events is what they do for a living and they work hard at it.
And there are people who would not ordinarily be able to afford to go to AMTC who get scholarships, sponsorships, or financial aid to attend AMTC .
There are many things about AMTC that are right. You can check out the AMTC website and get a good handle on what AMTC believes in and what it does. There is another site that discusses the AMTC auditions that has much useful information.
Some important things to keep in mind when you are considering attending AMTC are:
- Money. If you cannot afford to pay to go to AMTC, don’t go. Don’t spend money you need to live on in the hopes that your child or you will become a star. Try a different avenue to get into show business.
- Financial Aid. If money is tight, ask those who “invited” you to the audition or those in charge of AMTC about the possibility of a scholarship, sponsorship, or other financial aid in order to go to the event. There might not be any available for you, but it does not hurt to ask.
- Best Possible Outcomes. Understand what the best thing you can possibly get out of going to AMTC is, and then really think about whether or not that is what you want or what you expect! If talent agents, talent managers, and casting directors are really interested in your child, are you willing to move to where they are — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago? — Especially knowing that there are no guarantees on how much you will make or even on whether you will even ever get a single paying job in the entertainment industry? Use this to help you make the decision of whether to go or not.
- Other Routes to Showbiz. Investigate other methods of becoming an actor before you pay the money for the convention. Look for a talent agent on your own in your own hometown or some place nearby. You can practice the craft of acting/modeling locally before trying to compete in L.A. or New York. Working with an agent where you currently live might result in more small jobs, and that work might just get you the break you eventually need to make it in showbiz. And face the facts. The competition is fierce in the bigger markets, so starting locally where the talent pool is smaller makes a lot of sense.
- Your Goals. Analyze your goals, and if you really just want to be in the entertainment industry locally, an international talent competition may be a waste of your money. You can pursue local markets on your own without the help of such a huge talent competition. Face the facts. The competition for jobs is fierce in those bigger markets. You are better off working the smaller markets first even if your goals are to make it in L.A. or New York.
- Worst Possible Outcomes. Think about how you’ll feel if you leave the convention without winning a single award and without getting a single callback from one of the industry professionals. It does happen that way many times… If you think you will be happy with the experience you gain and with the information that you get and that you will enjoy it regardless of the outcome, then good for you.
Do Your Research
If it is a different event than AMTC, it is important that you thoroughly do your research and make sure it is not a scam. While there are other conventions besides AMTC that are legitimate, there are many scam operations that make promises that they cannot and do not keep. Do your research for AMTC as well to make an informed decision about whether you think it is something you want to and should do.
Other Less Expensive Ways to Get The Information You Need to Start a Career in Show Business
You can get into show business without attending a talent convention like AMTC, and it will be much less expensive. For a comprehensive DVD course on show business and acting, take a look at The Actor’s Journey for Kids and The Actor’s Journey (for adults). These two DVD sets contain essential information about starting a successful career in the entertainment industry from people who know very well how to go about this.
The Actor’s Journey is presented by over 100 industry professionals sharing their perspectives on the entertainment industry. The DVDs were created by Stanley Livingston, a producer and director in Hollywood today, best known for his role as ‘Chip’ on My Three Sons, a very successful sitcom of the 60s and early 70s.
To your success,